UPDATE: At E3 2019, Nintendo confirmed that "a future update" for Super Mario Maker 2 will allow for online multiplayer with friends. When news first broke that Super Mario Maker 2 would only let you play player-made levels in online multiplayer with random matchmaking, fans saw it as another instance of Nintendo hamstringing its online play options. It sounds like Nintendo has heard the complaints, and will be rectifying the limitation in a post-launch update. Super Mario Maker 2 didn't factor heavily into the Nintendo E3 2019 presentation, which is understandable given that we recently got a dedicated Super Mario Maker 2 Nintendo Direct. But Super Mario Maker 2 is among the E3 2019 games playable on the show floor, so it's nice to know that Nintendo is receptive to fan feedback on this one.
Mr. Tezuka has confirmed that the ability to play online multiplayer with friends is coming to #SuperMarioMaker2 in a future update. Stay tuned for more information to come. https://t.co/oxGuEcJ8Om pic.twitter.com/1AfK1vEGIeJune 11, 2019
Super Mario Maker 2 is slated to release on June 28 and deliver new Mario aesthetics, more level-building options, a proper single-player campaign, and most importantly, multiplayer. These are all hugely exciting features, but according to multiple reports, the sequel's biggest addition - multiplayer - will also be extremely limited.
Nintendo World Report said that, during a recent press gathering, a Nintendo Treehouse representative explained that Super Mario Maker 2 multiplayer will not let people play player-made levels - the bulk of the game's content - with friends online. You can matchmake with other, random players online, but if you want to party up and play with specific friends, you'll reportedly have to do it on the same Switch with Super Mario Maker 2 two player mode or over local wireless. The explanation given was that players in the same party could throw a wrench in online leaderboards. YouTube channel GameXplain reports that Nintendo confirmed this multiplayer setup in an email response to Nintendo World Report's story.
It'd be incredibly disappointing for Super Mario Maker 2's online multiplayer to be limited to random matchmaking, but it wouldn't be all that surprising. Nintendo has a weak track record when it comes to doing anything online, let alone multiplayer. Splatoon 2, for example, didn't allow players to directly play with friends despite being a social, team-based shooter released in 2017. It also arbitrarily assigned maps to specific time slots, but I digress.
If Super Mario Maker 2's multiplayer is as limited as these reports suggest, it's possible it could be opened up (read: objectively improved) in an update. Players who party up could simply be excluded from leaderboards and matchmaking, for example. This would allow players to play with friends in their own little bubble, which seems to be what everyone wants anyway.
We've reached out to Nintendo for clarification regarding Super Mario Maker 2's multiplayer and how it could change after launch. We'll update this story if we receive a reply.